A Longing to be Stylish

van-gogh-entrance-to-the-public-gardens-in-arles-1888

Vincent van Gogh, Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles, 1888. Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1930

The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is counted among the greatest artists of all time. His most famous and beloved masterpieces like The Starry Night and Sunflowers plaster the walls of dormitories, classrooms, and office spaces. Here at The Phillips Collection, we are lucky enough to own Entrance to the Public Garden in Arles and The Road Menders, among others. Both works are currently on view at the Phillips.

Though van Gogh’s widespread fame today may not suggest it, he was only successful in selling a single painting during his lifetime, The Red Vineyards at Arles. His brother and pen pal, Theo, worked as an art collector, frequently expending his resources to attempt to sell Vincent’s paintings. As an intern here at the Phillips, and as an aspiring art professional, I feel a deep and humble connection to van Gogh and his particular struggle to be recognized as an artist. Van Gogh was perpetually fighting an uphill battle, and was rarely taken seriously by his contemporaries. Nevertheless, he produced more than almost any other known artist, as nearly 900 paintings and over 1,000 drawings survive him.

Striving to find one’s place in the art world is daunting. Van Gogh was constantly reminded that his technique was not in style, that he had started too late, and that he was an amateur. Undergraduate art students are often faced with the challenge of explaining our passion to those who see it as a hobby, as idealistic, or as necessarily non-lucrative. Though I am certain that any young artist would prefer to sell a few more paintings than our friend van Gogh, it is inspiring to read the stories and letters of a man with such great hope, in the face of very few tangible successes. Perhaps this was best for Vincent, as he stated in a March 1882 letter to Theo: “Occasionally, in times of worry, I’ve longed to be stylish, but on second thought I say no—just let me be myself—and express rough, yet true things with rough workmanship.”

Elizabeth Federici, Marketing & Communications Intern

Staff Show 2016: Travis Houze

In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

Travis Houze, The Purification of Summer

Travis Houze, “The Purification of Summer”

Travis Houze

Travis Houze, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Travis Houze. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Tell us about yourself and your work.

If there is anything that I want many to know about my vision, it generally can be summed up in two elements. The first is I use a warm-toned color palette, consisting of darker reds, browns, and yellows. The second is chiaroscuro, where I tend to keep the subjects I photograph illuminated a little more than the background that surrounds them.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I currently work as a Museum Assistant. I believe one of the interesting aspects in my job is being close to so many great masters of painting and learning the various different ways the painters use their paints, whether its oil or acrylic.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

Some of my favorites in the galleries consist of Pierre-Auguste Renoir for his attention to all the little details, Vincent van Gogh for his distinctive color palette used throughout most of his work, and William Merritt Chase for his use of chiaroscuro (the study of lighter objects against darker objects).

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

My favorite gallery space currently is the Music Room. What I love about the location is the grand scale and design of the ceiling and walls, and the fireplace that gives me a sense of the design elements seen in many other buildings in the 20th century.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

I came up with the photograph when the model in the image let me know of a hidden waterfall in the Maryland area. I was astounded by the scale of the waterfall and overall scenery. I knew then that I wanted the model to have some form of interaction with the environment and play the posing out a little more organically than my usual portrait work. I wanted to get as wide a shot as possible to not only show the size of the rocks in comparison to the model, but also the height of the waterfall.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

Staff Show 2016: Mike Guy

In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

MIke Guy, "Tunnel Vision"

MIke Guy, “Tunnel Vision”

 

Mike Guy

Mike Guy, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Mike Guy, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Mike Guy is an artist who has been active across the DC area. He received formal training from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, studying fiber arts under Fyuko Matsubara, with a focus in silk painting and printmaking. Since then, he has exhibited in galleries across DC, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He has also done large-scale mural projects for schools and businesses in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Mike has independently created pieces for companies including DC Vote, WeWork, Ted X, and the National Academy of Sciences.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I am a Museum Supervisor. The most interesting part is being able to walk through the museum first thing in the morning when all the lights are off. It’s always nice to have the first thing in your day be seeing some great art.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

Top three are Kandinsky, van Gogh, and Tack.

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

I am partial to the mural on the back wall of the courtyard in the alley (by four artists from Senegal) since I was the lead assistant for it.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

This painting is from my series of silk paintings Dormant. Each painting consists of one single line, which is quickly created on the silk. The nature of this method makes it so that you can’t go back and edit or erase lines after they have been laid out. I then go into the painting and add layers of color while reflecting on the initial movement in an attempt to find a balance. Each painting is a portrait, but instead of focusing on just the person, I blend them into their environment.

Find more of Guy’s artwork on his website.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.